Me too

In this time of #MeToo being very much in the public awareness, what follows below are the shared experiences of one of BGIM Media’s contributors that illustrate how, unfortunately, the idea that sexual assault, rape and sexual oppression are just the doings of a tiny number of “bad apples” in a huge bunch of “good men” is not accurate. That isn’t to say there aren’t many good men who do right, but there still remain a huge number who do not, and think it their right to do as they will sexually without proper consent. – Shay, aka BGIM

Before I could speak, before I understood my body is mine alone, before I had the words to say stop, before my family caught him, I was molested by an uncle, in my bed, for years, less than two feet away from my twin.

First grade. A male teacher is inappropriately touching himself at his desk, fully aware that I see him. There is no one else there; my female teacher is outside for recess with the rest of the class. I never tell anyone. After that I never allow myself to be anywhere in the school with him alone. Over a decade later he is caught, in that school, with a child in the bathroom.

Sixth grade. The nicknames given to me by my peers—the “the coolest of the kids”—are prude and ice queen. I won’t drink alcohol, and I won’t have sex with boys. I wear those names as a badge of honor, externally. I never talk about how much shame I feel because of them, internally.

Seventh grade. A male classmate I like asks me to be his girlfriend. I’m elated; I say yes. We “date” for several months, attend a school dance as a couple, hold hands when all our friends are together, and giggle when we talk about kissing each other. Then the day comes, he asks “can I kiss you?” “Ok!” I say with a big smile, and close my eyes, happily waiting for what will obviously be the best thing ever!

As his lips press against mine, his right hand cups my undeveloped left breast. Before I can think I separate from him and punch him in his face as hard as I can. The blood pouring from his nose freaks him the fuck out and, he starts screaming, crying, calling me names, and runs off.

Freshman and sophomore year of high school. I find out, in my 20s from a male “friend” that there was a pact among several boys to “break René’s virginity.” One of the boys found the money and contacted everyone else to ask what they should do with it since “No one won.”

Freshman in college. My friends and I walking into the Shugga Shack in Boston. Small town kids in the big city, ready to be grown. Over the next two hours we are keeping men and women out from under our skirts, literally. Several men actually begin sexual play with their finger between my legs without my consent in the midst of dancing. Like it was normal for them to just pussy pop someone in the club. I was mortified.

Then seemingly out of nowhere, there is this flawless contempt and disgust with me the minute I push them off, the minute I advocate for myself and say no. By the end of the night, for safety we friends decide we are all coupled up lovers, just to get some dancing in.

Early 20s. First violent rape. I tell no one.

Mid 20s. Second violent rape. I tell no one, develop agoraphobia and a serious drinking habit. I attempt suicide for the second time in my life. I discover therapy.

Late 20s. I am seeing a guy. No titles, but we are spending a lot of time together. I’ve spent the night without sex for weeks; no issues. Nudging a little, joking about it a bit, but not pushing. Then one night, I’m ready for bed and climbing in to his and he is bottomless. No warning. We talk about my surprise, but I’m game. I appreciate the bold move in the language of building trust and healthy sexual report. In the dark we make out, I allow myself to explore his body with my hands and my body as he willingly explores mine. For sweet delicious moments we are excited and curious. I feel safe.

I perform oral sex, and enjoy watching my partner feel pleasure. I am excited to guide him through pleasing me, I think to myself. We take a quick water break, and I lay down on the bed. He wraps his body around mine and proceeds to penily penetrate me. I stop him and inform him kindly, gently, how painful this experience will be for me without proper internal lubrication.

He ignores me and continues to try to penetrate me. I no longer feel safe.

I squeeze my thighs together as hard as I can, keeping him out of me, while reminding him this is about both of us, not just him. He tries to whisper sweet bullshit in my ear like I haven’t told him I’m not into this. I tell him to stop and get off of me. He tries one more time to “calm me down.” I get louder, so he lets go of me.

I get dressed, and start packing my things to go home. He begs me not to leave. He apologizes profusely as I tell him how fucked this whole thing is. He apologizes some more. I decide not to leave; I sleep on the couch that night. I don’t immediately leave him alone.

Thirty-three years old. I find out a male friend whom I trusted has been telling people in my city for years that I offered my naked body to him as payment for rent when I, for whatever reasons, couldn’t afford it. I was shocked—visibly shook—as my female friend informed me of her interaction with this man, just a few weeks back. It was her first time ever meeting him.

I called him and asked for a meeting immediately. When he said yes and he asked why, I told him, “I don’t trust you or feel safe around you any longer. I need you to know why so you will leave me the hell alone.” He denied everything until the very end, eventually apologizing for breaking my trust. I remember laughing at his pathetic apology text message the next morning as I happily deleted all digital traces of him from my universe.

He is a scumbag, a low-life, a criminal, a meticulous wolf in sheep’s clothing pretending to be a gentleman. Like every man who violated me before him, a coward who should fear the harm they have caused because it will come back to them. Know our names and our faces, the days of us keeping your secrets are over.

If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

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Photo by Stefano Pollio on Unsplash

Looking for Black love in a sea of white apps

As they sometimes say: The struggle is real.

In this case, the struggle of being a Black woman trying to find love or at least the seeds of it in the dating pool.

I have been on BLK, Bumble, Coffee & Bagel, Hinge, Tinder, and Zoosk. Fifteen to 30 minutes for a daytime date, for tea/coffee, errands, or a walk around Portland. My profile descriptions are honest and brief and my photos are full of smiles and fun adventures. No group photos and mostly full-body pictures. I give depth and substance, always hoping for the best. Turns out men—white and people of color—are more interested in drinking and going back to mine or their place for sex than they are in my name, let alone my career or hobbies. Even as a self-proclaimed commitment-phobic non-platonic dating partner it’s been a bit much. If their misogyny isn’t suffocating me, their fragility or insecurities aren’t drowning me, then their lack of emotional stability generally seals the deal and ends the date abruptly.

I had been in a relationship not that long ago, so how did I get here? Maybe that’s the place to start.

On June 1, 2017, I became single after 17 months of dating a mixed-race, light-skinned fuckboy who was born in Maine and “raised” by his white mother. According to urban dictionary a fuckboy is the type of guy who does shit that generally pisses the population of the earth off all the time. The woman, also mixed race, who was sleeping with him contacted me that morning at 9:51 a.m. to apologize for being caught. I didn’t know what she was talking about. Turns out the cheating hussy’s friend sent me a message the day before, on Facebook messenger, telling me that the hussy and my then scum boyfriend had been sleeping together for more than three months. She said neither of them would tell me the truth and she could see I was a good person and didn’t deserve this treatment, so she needed to tell me. She even sent me a photo of the two of them from earlier that week, half dressed in his bed, as proof. I felt immediate respect for this stranger I would never meet in person.

Once the truth was out, the other woman couldn’t help herself. Her guilt and shame came pouring out with no immediate end in sight. She spent the next 24 hours spilling everything she could as I asked all the strategic questions I could think of. I wanted desperately to put some pieces together for myself about the last few months and our fuckboy’s odd behaviors. She was so eager to be seen by someone, her fingers did all the talking.

Other Woman: I’m sorry for what my friend sent. Never meant to hurt you. She said she sent you a message on Facebook? I’m sorry René. (I was in shock at first. I called him immediately to find out what on earth was happening. He was at work, no answer. Several moments later he called back and of course had all the answers ready for my interrogation.)

Cheating Ex Slimeball: You drove me into her arms, you became emotionally unavailable to me. When you decided you didn’t want to have children with me, marry me, or move in to my apartment I realized we wanted different things.

Other Woman: He told me to be patient but then I saw he wasn’t doing anything about it or talking to you. I didn’t want to be the other woman and I didn’t think it was fair to you. I struggled to tell you. I vented to my friend and she took it upon herself.

I had felt something was wrong for weeks before that day. In fact, 10 days before this incident I had even asked my then douchebag partner if there was something he wanted to tell me—anything would be fine so long as he was honest with me. I made it clear I could feel a change in “us,” and that I wanted to fix it. He denied my concerns and told me it was my fault I was feeling this shift. That I was dragging past relationships into this relationship and not giving him a fair shot.

I believed him, internalized it and thought nothing about him mentioning T.K. (aka “other woman”) more often. So much for slowly building a friendship with her over the last year. Needless to say, after I found out, I was beside myself. I informed all the people in my life that needed to know, got super drunk and high and I went to sleep that night wishing so much harm on him as I played all the possible moments of dishonesty in my head and heart over and over again. After about 48 hours I was a new woman. I was ready to get back on that dating wagon.

However, I was at my summer job in the Western foothills of Maine, so dating was on hold until I got back to Portland, the most culturally diverse place in Maine before Lewiston. Starting in early October I began dating again, an average of two dates a week. I know well that dating is a numbers game and it is rigged against me and women who look like me, so I let go of all my neurotic planning methods and tendencies and said “yes” to almost every date offered.

And as I said at the beginning of this piece, the dating hasn’t gone well and trying to find a Black man or any man of color has gone even more poorly.

I started talking to other women of color about their dating experiences and found the more I talk to my Black female friends—not just in Maine or New England but all over the country—the more I hear them saying they are having difficulties finding a partner, especially if they’re Black, and especially if they want marriage—in a way that our white friends aren’t struggling so much. I am constantly questioning my worth in the dating world in a way I don’t question my worth anywhere else.

In a country where Black men are roughly seven times more likely to be killed than Black women and Black men are twice as likely as Black women to seek marriage outside of their race, the reality of my choices feels so slim. OkCupid statistics reveal that Black women are the least desirable demographic in the dating pool, next to Asian men.

I have been on over 50 first dates since October; only two have been men of color and all of them have been in Maine. I am realizing I want to find a Black man who wants to love me and is worthy of my love. I am not completely convinced I have to leave Maine to find this, but with each new app or new unsuccessful date I am losing hope.

If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

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Photo by Mayur Gala on Unsplash

I am done being your token, Maine

I’m a 33-year-old high-achieving Black South African femme goddess who lives in Portland, Maine. Most days I feel like a delicious summer night: loud, with no particular audience in mind to show my magnificent sparkling goddess power. I make the day question its very existence, for fun. With a crown upon my head and a swirl of colors and music about me I give Maine something it has never quite seen before. Me. I am a local performance artist who tries my very best to see at least one public show a week.

About a month ago, I went to see “One Flea Spare” at the Mad Horse Theater in South Portland, Maine, with a group of friends. About half of us were people of color (POC). The play explores wealth, class, fear, and survival in 17th century London. An aristocratic couple (white) is preparing to flee their home when a lower-class sailor and a young girl (both white) appear and sneak into their boarded-up house. Now, quarantined together for 28 days—in two rooms, as the rest of the home has been quarantined off also—the only thing these strangers fear more than the plague is each other. The unfamiliar proximity of socially, emotionally, and physically disparate bodies threatens not only disease, but revolution. I read the play summery and giggled quietly realizing I automatically saw myself as the plague in this scenario—not a disease but the revolution. Having lived in a predominantly white state for 26 years I can tell you, in my experience, white people are more scared of what other white people think of them then they are of me, a woman of color.

As I watched my friends on stage telling a white story I had never seen before, which is rare, something very profound happened to me. Somewhere about halfway through the play, I started to have a compassion for white women I had never really had before that moment.

I watched as this white, privileged male character violently exuded his power over the lesser humans in the room: his wife (childless and deformed), a peculiar and morbid child (a stranger), and the untrustworthy sailor (a sexually exploited servant). Before this play I had only really ever seen white women as perpetrators in this game of deniable racism by way of intellectual liberal and republican accreditation. I grew up seeing them as gatekeepers for the continuation of minority suffering (my white female teachers, social workers, sports coaches, parents of my friends, primary care physicians, and so on) so they themselves where spared the rod of their husband’s or partner’s whim, or anger, or whatever. Privileged, liberal, white women and girls in Maine, for me, have always been the worst. If this play was reality on stage, then I could understand why they abused, oppressed and belittled lovely ray of sunshine, me. Why they used the little bit of power they had against me.

Here are the four things Maine taught me to be true about white people:

  1. White men are the authority, always, or else.
  2. Animals have more domain then female humans do.
  3. Brown, Black, Asian, Hispanic and Native women should shut up, always, because their crazy emotions just don’t work for white men, ever. Unless you want to be sexually deviant (this means so many things) behind closed doors.
  4. The Pilgrims wanted to separate from the church, and the Puritans wanted to purify the church. I actually learned this in public school, in Maine, along with the idea that the U.S. is at the center of a world map, and manifest destiny should be my guide when thinking about how to be a good citizen in this country.

If you take those four concepts and you keep using those four concepts for hundreds of years as a cultural standard you create an entire country of white people that cannot see themselves because nothing in their cultural makeup says that emotional value is important. Instead this white male-driven Puritan culture has taught white people that emotional capacity is weakness and/or ammunition (i.e. a weapon). It’s the only way whites truly know how to use it, if not incorporated into art or theory.

White people’s estrangement to themselves and their emotional capacity is not baffling when you do the research; when you look at the facts. I say all of this because, after 25 years of working, performing, and being overlooked in Maine’s Arts community, I am done. Done being tokenized by whites who need to feed off of my emotional abilities and strength. I am done taking jobs for free while you pay whites to do the same thing. I am done sitting down for a coffee date so white people can just “pick my brain.” I am done finding you POC performers. I am done building power for your white organizations and systems. I am done being strung along with promises of income and titles. I am done not being able to afford my rent or groceries while you buy property and cars and clothes and stuff. I am, from here on out, only building economic power for me. I am choosing to build power for us. Wakanda forever!

If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

Comments will close on this post in 60-90 days; earlier if there are spam attacks or other nonsense.

Photo by Kai Pilger on Pixabay